12 February 2013

Nigeria: NBA Threatens to Drag JTF to UN Over Illegal Detention

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday threatened to drag the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State, Operation Restore Order, before the United Nations over its "illegal and unlawful" detention of people in the state.

It also said the action of the JTF in spite of the declaration of ceasefire by the Boko Haram sect was sabotaging the return of peace to the troubled town of Maiduguri.

The NBA threat came barely a week after hundreds of women took to the streets of Maiduguri to protest the continued detention of their husbands and wards by the task force.

In a statement by its Maiduguri branch chairman, Hussaini Hala, the NBA said: "It is disheartening to note that in spite of the ceasefire declared by members of the aggrieved sects, the JTF has continued to carry out acts that are capable of derailing the gradual peace that is returning to the state.

"The Nigerian Bar Association considers the failure to conditionally or unconditionally release or charge to court detainees in the custody of the JTF as unconstitutional, illegal, and an abuse of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory."

The NBA said since the JTF came to Borno State in 2011, nobody has been charged to court in spite of the fact that several people it has kept in custody, insisting that since the task force has no constitutional power to prosecute anyone, it should have transferred the detainees to the appropriate prosecuting authority within a reasonable time.

It asked what makes it difficult for the JTF to institute legal processes against those in its detention when about 400 people arrested in the eastern part of the country for treasonable offence were taken to court and were subsequently granted bail.

Hala said the NBA has therefore resolved that all detainees in the custody of the JTF should either be immediately released on bail conditionally or unconditionally or charged to a court of law having over stayed in the JTF's custody; all roads, markets and commercial areas illegally and unlawful blocked or shutdown should be reopened forthwith; all persons displaced or unlawfully chased away from their houses should be recalled and resettled; the JTF should stop all forms of extortion on public highways/roads, especially against commercial motor vehicles and tricycles who were compelled to pay before allowed to pass.

He said it was also resolved that the state government in conjunction with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other donor agencies should see to the resettlement of displaced persons and advised members of the public to remain calm and be law abiding.

The NBA however threatened that if the JTF fails to heed to its resolutions within a "reasonable time," it will on behalf of the defenseless people of Borno State approach the Federal High Court, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights to seek redress jointly and severally.

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